It was a beautiful day on Saturday for a children's day trip to the amusement park. This day ended sadly for the congregation of Corinth Baptist Church of Gaffney, SC. The children, along with the pastor, youth pastor, and other members of the church were among the injured when the miniature train ride at the Cleveland Park in Spartanburg, SC overturned. Members of the church that were onboard when the derailment occurred say that they are not sure what caused the accident but the train seemed to be going pretty fast. According to David Britt of Spartanburg County, the train track had been completely reworked a couple of years ago.
Benjamin "Benji" Easler,a 6 year old of Gaffney was killed in the crash. His father Dwight Easler is the pastor of the church. The pastor, his pregnant wife and their 3 children were all onboard the train. Dwight suffered a badly sprained ankle and deep cuts to his head, his wife suffered minor cuts and bruises, the two older boys suffered from broken arms and one of the boys had to have surgery for a bad cut on his face.
Nathan Ellis, youth pastor, spoke very tenderly of the young boy stating that " Benji is the kid that swam across the baptistry when it was his turn to be baptized". The church brought in grief counselors for the families involved and any other members that were affected by this tragedy.
Sixteen of the nearly 30 passengers on the train were all from the Gaffney congregation. The other children that were involved in the accident are between the ages of 3 and 12 years old. The driver was released on Monday from the hospital. The crash happened on Saturday, March 19,2011 at approximately 1pm, within one hour of the park's opening day of the season.
South Carolina officials stated on Monday that the report that was done by the state inspector falsified his report that ok'd the ride. The Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation chief Catherine Templeton stated that there was no way that the test was performed on the train because the train had a dead battery, making it inoperable. Templeton went on to state the the worker has been fired.